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BBC Amharic - A Drone Strike on a School in North Shewa Zone Leaves Four People Killed and Another Five Injured, Including Teachers

Disclaimer: This is an English translation of an Amharic article taken from BBC Amharic and is intended solely for information purposes.

BBC Amharic - A drone strike on a school in North Shewa Zone has left four people killed and an another five injured including teachers


May 14, 2024


On Sunday, May 12, 2024 (Ginbot 4, 2016 EC) a drone strike on Gulo School located in Tirae Kebele of Kewet Woreda in North Shewa Zone of Amhara Region struck during a parent teacher association meeting according to eyewitnesses and family members of victims who spoke to BBC.


The Gulo Primary School is located 20-km from Shewa Robit, administrative center of Kewet Woreda, where the drone strike happened at around 1:30 pm which left four people killed and an additional five injured.


The attack occurred as locals were gathered for a meeting by the parent teacher association according to one resident who was in attendance and sustained injury to his head.


The eyewitness explains how they were unaware the attack was carried out by a drone, “we thought it was a plane, it (the drone) circled the area one two three times” they continued saying, “when we were seated having a discussion we didn't know where it came from. We only realized once it was on top of us.”


Among the killed victims were two people who were attending the meeting, and another two were also civilians who were near the school at the time, according to the eyewitness.


They spoke about the attack as follows, “two of them (killed victims) were gathered with us. They were day workers (farmers) like us. They were sitting on the steps outside the fencing of the school. The impact reached across the fence and struck both of them.”


They explained to BBC that the attack came as a shock as one of the participants of the meeting and a close relative of one of the killed victims was flung back from where he was standing as a result of the explosion.


He described the circumstances of the attack as follows, “at the time it passed through the sky and ground. I couldn't see or hear it. If it were in an area we thought would be dangerous we would have been cautious. This transpired in a place with no active fighting.”


Family members of one of the killed victims say he was a 30-year-old married father of one who made a living doing labor.


They said he had come to the school to collect irrigation water when the attack happened, and they described the situation as “hopeless”. They described the killed victim saying “he was innocent, he didn't know what was happening.” His burial took place the day of the incident (Sunday) at 4 pm in the Egziabher Ab Church.


Although no teachers were killed in the attack three teachers (one male and two female teachers) were injured according to another eyewitness.


One eyewitness described rushing to the scene of the explosion after hearing it and seeing bodies of the killed victims, and said four people were killed and a large number were injured.


The killed people were farmers. They worked near the school on bananas, vegetables and irrigation. And there was a female teacher who worked inside the school who was injured. And another two farmers suffered minor and serious injuries.”


The eyewitness said when he arrived to the area, he and local residents buried the victims and the injured victims were taken to health centers.


The teacher had been admitted to hospital. They gave her a referral…her injury was severe. I have not yet heard whether she has died. Another farmer who suffered severe injuries is receiving care here (Tirae Kebele). One of the farmers had minor injuries. I have heard he is not in serious danger.”


One eyewitness said among the injured victims was an elderly man in his mid 70s who helped out at the school.


One eyewitness told BBC Fano fighters were active in areas surrounding Shewa Robit but that they were not present when the attack took place nor was there any gunfire exchange with government forces.


The eyewitness recalled there has previously been fighting between Fano and government forces in the area, saying “but we have not seen Fano pass through this area recently.”


Another resident confirmed that Fano fighters were not present in the area and said “we questioned why” an attack was carried out on innocent civilians.


The witness explained that he did not understand how a school could be targeted. “This [school] is a public institution. It is a foundational institution. How could they target workers at a foundational institution? This has been the question for me.”


The witness also described the extent of property destruction. “The eighth grade had four classrooms, created with a glass design. They completely destroyed it. The first to seventh grade classrooms had been constructed with only tin and even that took much debate. There was only one bomb that was dropped. But it is difficult to say that just one shot could do this. The area is an irrigation site so there are mangoes, evergreen trees, bananas and sugarcane. This was all destroyed.” 


It had been over a month since the school stopped teaching, and the attack was carried out on a Sunday which meant the casualties could have been even worse, say residents.


One witness said the area was succumbed by fear, as residents anticipate another attack could take place. 


He describes the current situation in the area as follows: “the entire area is in fear. There are fears that a similar situation could transpire and so the youth do not move freely in the open. They anticipate more drone attacks so there are currently no gatherings in the main kebele (Tirae). And due to this fear there have been no gatherings since the attack.”


Drone strikes have been carried out in various areas as fighting has continued between government forces and Fano forces in Amhara Region and human rights organizations have repeatedly reported killings of unarmed civilians as a result of these attacks.


Last December the Chief of General Staff Field Marshal Birhanu Jula denied the use of drone strikes against civilians.


The Defense Force had stated it carried out drone attacks only “targeting gatherings of Fano forces” and also said “did not drop bombs on the public, nor fire at them. Firing is not done on residential areas. However when a gathering of the enemy is identified we do fire.”


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